If your child’s starting primary school for the first time in September, you may be questioning how prepared they are. There’s a lot of talk about ‘school readiness’ but what does it really mean? Essentially, just that the child can complete simple tasks independently and is ready to learn.
In this blog, we’ll look at some specific skills your new starter will need and give you some helpful tips to encourage them over the next few weeks.
1. Dressing and undressing
Your child will need to put on and take off their coats and change for P.E. numerous times at school, and it’s surprising how long such seemingly simple tasks can take if none of the children are able to cope alone.
Practise doing up and undoing zips, buttons and poppers at home when your child gets up, goes out and gets ready for bed, and they’ll soon improve. You could even add a race element, i.e., give them five minutes to be fully dressed to spur them into action. Keep it simple too: Velcro is so much easier than laces for little fingers, and zips much less fiddly than buttons.
2. Recognising their name
Being able to recognise their own name will make things a lot simpler for your child. It will help them understand where to put their coat, which drawer is theirs, and even help them identify their cardigan from their friends after P.E.
Again, work on this at home. Your child may already have items with their name on for nursery that you can use to familiarise them with the shapes and sounds involved. The clearer the font, the better: intricate and flowery lettering should be avoided.
Sharing and taking turns are skills that are invaluable in the classroom, and help it run smoothly and fairly.
Encourage your child to ask, “Can I have a go next?” on playdates and teach them to give someone else a turn once they’ve played with a toy for a while. Encourage them to listen, and hear, what others are saying too, by asking questions about conversations and people’s feelings.
4. Following instructions
Your child needs to be able to follow any instructions given in the classroom, so that they know what is expected of them and can play a full part in lessons.
Accustom your child to this in the home by asking them to do certain tasks, like tidying up, perhaps helping them with the task at first. Encourage them to give you their full attention by asking them to use their ‘listening ears’.
5. Going to the toilet and washing their hands
Going to the toilet and washing their hands afterwards unaided is the ideal at school, so get your child used to doing these things for themselves. Teachers will understand that children develop at different rates, and that not all children will have mastered toileting, so if your child does struggle, don’t worry. Just let the teachers know that it is something your child doesn’t always manage to get right, and make sure you pop some extra pants into their bag in case of accidents, so the teachers don’t have to go hunting spares out.
Make sure your child knows too that things can sometimes go wrong, even if they can go to the toilet well on their own, so that they are not afraid to ask for help should they need it.
6. Basic numbers and sounds
Whilst children aren’t expected to have significant skills in these areas, it’s great if they have a grasp of some of the basic sounds and letters of the alphabet, even if it’s just those in their name and numbers up to 5.
There are lots of games, apps and programmes to help them learn these, such as Alphablocks and Numberblocks on CBeebies and Busy Things, which are well worth a try, but numbers and letters are everywhere in everyday life, so use these too. You can count the number of games in the toy box, for example, spot letters they know on signs on the way to the shops or as you’re reading a book, and enjoy rhyming songs and games together to help them recognise the different sounds.
7. Using cutlery and holding a pen
Finally, children should have sufficiently honed fine motor skills to hold a knife, fork, spoon and pencil in some fashion. In days gone by, this was deemed a must when starting primary school but that’s not the case these days. If children can hold a knife and fork, that’s great: the dinner time supervisors will help them cutting up their food to start with. The same goes for holding a pen: if they have the basic idea, the teachers will help them develop the correct tripod grip.
Practise using cutlery at home, even if it’s just a spoon, and encourage your child to spend time off the screen, so that they develop their fine motor skills, whether that be colouring-in or playing with toys like Lego or Aquabeads.
In addition to the skills mentioned above, there are also certain behaviours that link to a child’s emotional and social maturity, which indicate that a child is ready for school. These behaviours are covered in our next blog Is Your Child Ready for School, Emotionally and Socially?
More starting school support…
This blog is the second in our ‘Starting School’ series, which consists of 5 blogs in total. Read the others here: Starting School: Hints and Tips, Is Your Child Ready for School, Emotionally and Socially?, Getting Ready for School: A Parent’s Guide and Your First Day at School Checklist.
We hope our “Starting Primary School: Skills to Encourage” blog has been useful! Please do let us know what you think in the comments and if you have any further ideas to share…